Those who have a fondness for politics, news, and anything related to the State of Israel most likely know about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate and demonize the Jewish state.
But what about those Canadians who are entirely unaware that the campaign even exists? And when faced with proponents of it, may not fully comprehend the magnitude of their hatred and bias?
Example: B’nai Brith Canada received a complaint last week from a Toronto resident informing us that BDS stickers had been spotted at the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) at Yorkdale Mall, placed atop Sodastream products.
It appears the irony of targeting Sodastream, a company that’s done more for Palestinian employees than any BDS advocate in history, was apparently lost on the perpetrator. It also illustrates that all Israeli companies are subject to a boycott in the minds of BDS promoters, whether they based out of Israel proper or not.
B'nai Brith immediately called the manager, who informed us that the incident had been handled, and they followed general protocol when dealing with people who cause issues inside the store. The protocol, in this case, was to ask the person to leave the premises, and since the person agreed, he or she was free to go on their way.
Sticker found at Yorkdale HBC promoting BDS
The problem is that the action taken was illegal, as it was a defacement of property and a clear act of mischief according to Section 430 of the Criminal Code, as it “obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.”
Furthermore, because BDS specifically targets Jewish and Israeli products, it openly attacks visible identity groups, which clearly do not (or at least should not) coincide with the values of HBC or any reputable Canadian brand. Management at institutions such as HBC should be aware of this, and of the seriousness of such attacks.
Canada, unfortunately, has a history of failing to act on crimes of mischief or vandalism directed at the Jewish community. In recent months, there have been several instances of willful promotion of hatred against Jewish people across Canada, yet the suspects are never charged with a hate crime. In fact, B’nai Brith recently launched a petition regarding this issue – to sign it, click here.
The organization behind such BDS campaigns in Canada is Canadians for Justice in Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), who openly post about their “conquests” on social media. They even released a video showing one of their members break the law by committing an act of mischief and placing similar BDS stickers on Israeli products. CJPME focus the majority of its efforts on demonizing Israel (not the Palestinian leaders who spend millions of dollars on terror infrastructure, or the explicit human rights travesties across Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, etc.) Despite its name, it appears that the organization doesn't seem to care too much about either justice or peace in the Middle East.
As a Canadian, I am baffled that we even have to have a conversation on BDS, which has been condemned by lawmakers on both the provincial and federal levels. When a motion condemning BDS in Canada was overwhelmingly passed last February, former Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said, “The world will win nothing for boycotting Israel but depriving itself of the talents of its inventiveness.”
It’s high time we started educating Canadians about the dangers of allowing the proponents of racist and one-sided movements like BDS to carry out explicitly illegal campaigns without any real warning. There’s no reason for Canada to have laws such as the wilful promotion of hatred, vandalism, or mischief, if lawmakers don’t prosecute crimes accordingly – and if we as Canadians do not know how to identify such acts.
Ryan Bellerose is an indigenous rights activist, Zionist, and Western Advocacy Coordinator of B'nai Brith Canada's League for Human Rights.